“I don’t want to be an introvert anymore. It feels like people don’t understand me. How can I be happy and make friends in a society that seems to favor extroverts?”
Roughly 33-50% of the US population are introverts, meaning that introversion is a normal personality trait.
But sometimes, being an introvert is hard. You might even have found yourself wishing for a more extroverted personality. Here are a few possible reasons why you dislike being an introvert and what you can do about it.
Some people claim that they hate being introverts because they get anxious about social occasions and spend a lot of time worrying about what others will think of them. However, these feelings and concerns are not signs that someone is introverted. They are more likely to be a sign of social anxiety disorder or shyness.
Some people may assume that you are aloof or feel superior to others because you are reserved or take your time before speaking, when in fact, you just prefer low-key social interaction. Or they might imply that you should change your personality, perhaps by “acting more outgoing” or “speaking up more.” You might also get asked, “Why are you so quiet?” or “Is something wrong?” which can be annoying.
Introverts recharge their energy by spending time alone. As an introvert, you probably find social situations draining, even when you’re with close friends and relatives. Noisy, busy social events can be unpleasant for you.
You may feel that being an introvert has cost you career opportunities. For example, if you hate networking events, conference calls, group projects, work parties, or other social activities in the workplace or at school, you might be labeled as “not a team player,” which can hurt your professional reputation.
Introverts typically dislike small talk, preferring to have more meaningful discussions. If casual conversation bores you, it might feel like you have to pretend to be interested in others. This can be tiring and frustrating; it might seem like you are just “going through the motions.”
Outgoing, extroverted personality traits are often held up as the ideal in the media. As an introvert, this can be discouraging.
If your family, friends, or teachers criticized you for being “reserved” or “distant” as a child or teenager, you might have decided at an early age that being an introvert was bad.
One of the most common myths about introverts is that they are antisocial or not interested in people. This isn’t true. However, it can take a lot of time and effort to find suitable friends who understand your introverted nature, enjoy deep conversations, and share your interests.
As an introvert, you might spend a lot of time analyzing your own thoughts and ideas. This can be a strength—self-awareness is often useful—but it can become a problem if it makes you anxious.
“I’m an introvert, but I hate being alone. How can I make friends with people who will accept me as I am?”
If you feel lonely, you might blame your introversion. But whatever your personality type, you can meet likeminded people and build a social circle. It may help to look for other people who enjoy typically introvert-friendly activities, such as reading, art, and writing. As an introvert, you’re unlikely to make friends by going to one-off events, bars, clubs, or parties.
It may be easier to make friends with people if you meet them at a group or class that centers on a common interest. Try to find an ongoing meetup or class. That way, you’ll be able to build meaningful friendships over time. Look at this article on how to make friends as an introvert for more ideas.
Some people don’t realize that activities which would suit extroverted personalities, such as large parties or a night out at a bar, are unlikely to be much fun for introverts.
But if you are proactive and voice your preferences, you can decide on an activity that works for everyone. This helps you build a more enjoyable social life, which in turn can make it easier to accept your introverted traits.
[When a friend invites you to a busy nightclub]: “Thank you for inviting me along, but noisy clubs aren’t my thing. Would you be interested in getting a coffee sometime next week?”
Sometimes, you might want to go to a high-energy event but need to leave early before you get overwhelmed or drained. Be prepared to politely but firmly assert your boundaries when necessary.
[When you want to leave a party, but someone tries to pressure you into staying]: “It’s been fun, but two hours is usually my limit for parties! Thank you for having me. I’ll text you soon.”
Some people assume that introverts are quiet because they are worried, shy, or aloof. If you tend to be reserved around others, it can help to prepare in advance what you’ll say the next time someone asks you why you don’t say much.
Check out this article for ideas: “Why Are You So Quiet?”
It can be difficult to know the difference between introversion and social anxiety. Introverts and socially anxious people can show similar behavior, such as a reluctance to socialize in groups.
As a general rule, if you are afraid of social situations or of being judged by others, you are probably socially anxious. Our article on how to know whether you’re an introvert or have social anxiety will help you tell the difference. If you have social anxiety, these guides may help:
Try to change the way you think about casual conversation. Rather than seeing it as a burden, try to think of it as the first step in forming a deep connection with someone who could turn into a good friend.
There is nothing wrong with being an introvert, but there may be times where you’d like to be more outgoing. For example, when you are meeting new people or when you’re at a large, high-energy social gathering, you might prefer to act more extroverted.
Research shows that it’s possible to develop your extroverted side if you’re willing to make changes. As human beings, we have the ability to adapt to our surroundings, and this often becomes easier with practice.
For step-by-step advice on how to act in a more extroverted way, check out our articles on how to be more outgoing and tips on how to be more extroverted without losing who you are.
Some introverts have a tendency to over-analyze social situations, which can cause a lot of unnecessary worry. We go into this problem in depth in our article on how to stop overthinking social interaction for introverts.
Here are a few strategies to try:
- Deliberately make a few minor social mistakes, such as mispronouncing a word or dropping something. You’ll soon learn that most people aren’t very interested in you and won’t care about your mistakes, which can help you feel less self-conscious.
- Try not to take other peoples’ behavior personally. For example, if your colleague is abrupt towards you one morning, don’t leap to the conclusion that they dislike you. They might just have a headache or be preoccupied with a work problem.
- Try an improv class or another activity that forces you to socialize without thinking too much about what you’re doing or saying.
You may be more accepting of yourself as an introvert if your job is a good fit for your personality.
Introversion can be an asset in the workplace. For example, introverts may be better at avoiding unnecessary risks and less likely to be overconfident compared to extroverts.
But some jobs and work environments are more introvert-friendly than others. For example, you may find it hard to cope with working in a busy, open-plan office or feel drained if your work involves making multiple phone calls every day.
If you are unhappy in your career, it might be time to find a new role.
As an introvert, one of the following jobs could be a great fit:
- Creative freelancer, e.g., graphic designer, writer, or a social media consultant
- Jobs that involve working with animals rather than people, e.g., dog walker or groomer
- Jobs that involve working with the environment or spending time alone outdoors alone or with only a few other people, e.g., wildlife ranger, gardener, or tree surgeon
- Roles that let you work alone or as part of a small team in a quiet environment, e.g., accountant, programmer
Starting your own business could be another option to consider. As an entrepreneur rather than an employee, you’ll have more control over how much time you have to spend with other people.
If you can’t or don’t want to change your job, you might be able to adjust your work environment or routine to suit you.
For example, depending on your job, you could:
- Ask your manager if it’s OK to use noise-canceling headphones if you work in a noisy environment.
- Ask to work from home part of the time.
- Encourage others to communicate with you in writing (i.e., via email and instant messaging) rather than in person if appropriate. Many introverts like expressing themselves in writing.
- Ask for regular performance reviews. Introverts can be reserved when it comes to pointing out their contributions at work, which can mean they are passed over for promotion. It can feel easier to lay out your achievements as part of a formal review process.
Learning a few introvert-friendly networking strategies could also pay off. This Harvard Business Review article has some useful tips.
There are benefits to being an introvert. For example, if you prefer to socialize only occasionally, you might have plenty of time to focus on your hobbies and teach yourself new skills. Reading some books for introverts can help you appreciate your strengths.
There are biological differences between introverts and extroverts, and these affect behavior from a young age. Introverts’ brains are more easily stimulated by the environment, which means they get overwhelmed more quickly than introverts.
No. Introversion is a normal personality trait. Being an introvert can be difficult sometimes—for example, you may find other people draining—but you can learn techniques to help you enjoy a healthy social life.
No. Western societies are generally biased towards extroverts, but this doesn’t mean that being an introvert is bad. However, you can learn to act more extroverted if you’d like to be more outgoing in social situations.